Jordan between the Americans and Syrians

Maher Abu Tair (Photo: Jordan News)
It is unfortunate, indeed, that the US interferes in Jordanian-Syrian relations, while everyone knows that even before the US’ Caesar Act, Washington stood against every step Jordan took closer to Syria. اضافة اعلان

The irony of this situation is that the volume of economic losses incurred by Jordan because we are shunning the Syrians is higher than the value of US assistance to Jordan. It is like we are influenced by the Americans and pay the price for it, economically, despite the belief of some that we lose nothing. 

Recently, when Jordan approached Israel for additional water, there were voices asking why Jordan did not ask the Syrians for help in the current water crisis. For sure, the frozen ties between Jordan and Syria, at different levels, has caused harm to Jordan, which is exclusively banned from mending fences with the Syrians, while influential Arab parties are taking liberties in getting closer with them.

As the water crisis evolves, there are calls for resorting to Syria. This is a positive and a sentimental attitude, but let us remember certain important facts: First, the Syrians have breached an agreement with Jordan over water pouring into the Wihda Dam from the Yarmouk Basin, taking the form of dozens of dams and aquifers in Syria that have affected the underground water reserves in the area. For the war, Syria expanded its wheat cultivation in the southern region, a matter which pushed up water consumption, especially since Syria itself is negatively affected by Turkish policies and several regions of our northern neighbor are suffering water shortages due to the meager rainfall this year and the years before.

This suggests that there is a mute Jordan-Syrian crisis in this field, amplified by political differences. We cannot deny that we do have rights denied by our Syrian brothers, and we deny not that Syria is actually struggling with a water crisis, which makes their priorities different.

It should be pointed out here that protesting the practices of the Syrian regime and the cost of the internal war does not prevent shifts in positions, even partially. In fact we have seen such shifts happening in the ties of other Arab countries, so why it is we who should submit to the Americans as they settle their accounts, as embodied in the Caesar Act, with Syria? At the end of the day, the shared geography with Syria dictates its own policies in the neighborhood.  

I have a confirmed a tip that a Jordanian minister was completely convinced of the need to communicate with Syrians over several issues, including the water issue. Indeed, this minister made some calls months ago with Damascus regarding the issue of water, and they welcomed a suggestion to trade electricity from Jordan to Syria, which has a power crisis, and water from Syria to Jordan. This sounded very reasonable, but the deal failed, first because the minister left his office and, second, because parties with political interests hindered any rapprochement with Syria, using the Caesar Act as an excuse. In the end, it was the Jordanians who paid the price.

Jordan could have exempted itself from the Caesar Act restrictions, citing several considerations, exactly like what happened when sanctions were imposed on Iraq during the previous regime.

Despite the difficult water situation in Syria, the war impact, and the lukewarm ties with Jordan, it is certain that Jordan is paying the price of the US stance towards Damascus. It is as if Washington is pushing us towards a sole option, Israel, which leaves us with huge economic losses at all levels due to the disrupted ties with Syria, which is the closer to us. 

Former House speaker, Abdul-Karim Al-Doghmi, spoke frankly a few days ago about the need to request assistance from the Syrians. He is right; that would not hurt our dignity, regardless of how acute the differences are. It is obvious that any step towards the Syrians is being blocked and there is no word on forging an initiative towards that end, except the news of some delegations that go to Damascus. In case these delegates ask for water, Damascus will ask for electricity, and then the Americans would jump in between, refusing water to come from there, and electricity to be supplied from here.

If the Americans want Jordan’s stability, they would lift all restrictions that are limiting its natural movement in the neighborhood. Without neighbors, we will remain weak.

Washington seeks to punish Damascus, but it is punishing us, too.

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